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Re: [ontolog-forum] language ambiguity

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 02:02:38 -0500
Message-id: <47B2960E.5080300@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Jakub,    (01)

I certainly believe that vagueness is a necessary feature
of natural languages.  It's not a defect to be eliminated.    (02)

 > I would like to add that the ambiguity or vagueness of natural
 > languages is probably not only inevitable but also a *wanted*
 > and *beneficial* property...
 > It is the difference between stating a fact/an offer directly
 > and bluntly versus saying it so that there are more possible
 > meanings one of which may not be so offending as the blunt
 > one (example could be trying to bribe someone).    (03)

Politeness and bribery are special cases, not the main uses.
The flexibility of vagueness is much more important for many
more purposes.    (04)

 > Do you think that this property could be beneficial for
 > artificial languages (like those for multi agent systems) too?    (05)

Definitely.  The flexibility of not specifying all details
in advance is essential for any kind of planning, revising,
compromising, and negotiating.    (06)

For example, an existing object, say a house or a car, always
has every detail defined.  You never find a house with either
6 or 7 rooms, 1 or two bathrooms, 2 or 3 windows in the kitchen,
etc.  Everything is definite, and nothing is vague.    (07)

But if you talk to somebody about buying a house or designing
a new house, many of the details are indefinite, vague, or
unspecified.  Usually, you won't have a clear idea of what
you'd like to buy until after you see a range of options.    (08)

The same is true for designing an airplane or a computer program.
If everybody who walked into a design meeting had a completely
finished specification, it would be impossible to reach an
agreement on anything.  Instead, you go through a period of
negotiation to arrive at a reasonable plan that everybody
can agree to.    (09)

It's not a matter of politeness, but the normal course of
developing a vague idea into a finished design, which is
usually not completely specified until after a prototype
has been built and tested. (Even after a product has been
delivered, there are usually many changes as time goes on.)    (010)

Bur it's important to note that natural languages can span
the full range from a vague thought to a specification that
is as complete as anything that could be written in logic.    (011)

John    (012)

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